Sep 152014
 
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Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (December 8, 2013)

Keenan Allen Beats Terrell Thomas for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants secondary was set.

The team had two former first-round picks (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara) at their outside cornerback positions, both of whom were capable of shutting down an opponent’s No. 1 target. Then, for those pesky slot receivers, New York signed the self-proclaimed best nickel defender in the game, Walter Thurmond III, this offseason.

On paper, everything seemed perfect. It looked as if a team that had been led for so many years by their front four, would now be led by their secondary.

Two games into the season, that tactic took a massive blow. Versus the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon, Thurmond suffered a torn pectoral muscle. He will have surgery on Tuesday. His season is over.

In years past, the Giants secondary had been ravaged by injuries. As a result, New York didn’t just build up its starting unit this offseason, but depth as well. Aside from Rodgers-Cromartie and Thurmond, Zack Bowman was signed from Chicago, Trumaine McBride was re-signed and Bennett Jackson drafted.

The injury to Thurmond, while a blow, shouldn’t be that bad. Right? New York should be able to slide any of the above mentioned players into the nickel cornerback position. Right?

Actually, wrong. While New York was considered to be incredibly deep at the cornerback position, it actually lacks experience at the nickel.

Here’s a look at what each cornerback on the Giants roster has done when brought in to play nickel. If the Giants deem the present group not worthy, here’s a few other options that may be worth a look.

Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Zack Bowman, Chicago Bears (October 10, 2013)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PRESENTLY ON THE ROSTER:

Zack Bowman, CB
Last Year Team: Chicago Bears
Snaps in Slot: 2013 – 8, 2012 – 0, 2011 – 5, 2010 – 5

When the news broke that Thurmond would miss the season, the instant logical solution to many was to simply plug Bowman in. The issue with that? Bowman has rarely been used at the nickel cornerback position throughout the duration of his career. The 29-year old has primarily been known as an outside corner and special teams player. While Bowman excelled in the preseason this year, it was very rarely when lined up in the slot. In four preseason games, Bowman played just two snaps matched up against the slot receiver.

Trumaine McBride, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013 – 10, 2012-0, 2011- 0, 2010- 12

McBride enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 while filling in for injured Giants cornerback Corey Webster. When quarterbacks decided to test McBride, their average QB rating was under 60. However, similar to Bowman, McBride has been known as an outside cornerback throughout the majority of his NFL career. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, McBride didn’t play a single snap in the slot.

Jayron Hosley, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013-4, 2012-177, 2011- 0

Jayron Hosley is arguably the player with the most experience in the slot, having played 177 snaps as the Giants nickel cornerback in 2012. The issue? He wasn’t particularly effective. Quarterbacks completed 52-of-76 passes when testing Hosley and had a combined quarterback rating of 86.7. In the 2014 preseason, Hosley played primarily outside and struggled, but did get six reps in nickel. He allowed two catches on the only two passes thrown his way. There’s also the small tidbit that Hosley is still suspended for two games. There is a chance that if the new drug policy is put in place, Hosley can play as early as this Sunday, but that’s no guarantee.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Antrel Rolle, S
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013-176, 2012- 173, 2011- 319

It seems as if every year the Giants try everything to get Rolle out of the slot, and every year something happens that puts him right back in it. Since joining the Giants, Rolle has played 668 snaps as a nickel cornerback. He’s had some success, too. Last year, a quarterback’s rating when testing Rolle was 66.6, but in 2012, that number was 107.3. Rolle is much better suited to simply play safety, as was evident last year, and New York will most likely try all other scenarios before moving the Pro Bowler down.

ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD:

Bennett Jackson, CB
Last Year: Rookie
Snaps in Slot: 2014 preseason-53

Quietly, Bennett Jackson had a pretty impressive preseason when playing the nickel cornerback position. On 53 snaps, he was only tested four times. He allowed two catches for 36 yards. Jackson is presently stashed on the Giants practice squad and could be activated if Thurmond is placed on the injured reserve, and the Giants decide not to activate Hosley.

Chandler Fenner, CB
Last year: Rookie
Snaps in Slot: 2014 preseason- 0

A very, very unlikely situation would be the activation of Chandler Fenner to the Giants 53-man roster. While Fenner played well in the preseason and team’s training camp, he saw no snaps as a nickel back in the preseason.

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Terrell Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OUTSIDE THE TEAM:

Terrel Thomas, CB
Last Year: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2014-315, 2010- 57

While Jordan Raanan (NJ.com) and Conor Orr (The Star-Ledger) have reported that, at least to this point, the Giants have not contacted Thomas’ reps, the former second-round pick is still a free agent after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks in training camp.

Thomas was one of the feel-good stories for the Giants a year ago when he bounced back from a third ACL tear to play the full 16 games. Thomas saw over 300 snaps as the nickel corner and played well at times. In his first game action in two years, Thomas allowed 45 completions in 59 attempts for 453 yards with three touchdowns. He intercepted one pass and a quarterback’s average rating when testing the USC alum was an even 91. He’s available, knows the system and has had more experience and success than any other cornerback option on the roster.

Charles James II, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2014 (preseason)- 44 2013 (PS)- 27

During the Giants 75-man roster cut down, they waived fan-favorite Charles James. The former undrafted free agent is still a free agent and saw some action in the nickel package this preseason, but struggled mightily. James played 27 snaps and allowed a completion on both of the throws tossed his way. Similar to Thomas, NJ.com and The Star-Ledger are reporting there has been no phone call made from the Giants to James.

Dunta Robinson, CB
2013 Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Snaps in Slot: 2013- 143 2012-48 2011-3

An unlikely option for the Giants would be to sign a veteran with little connection to the team. Former first-round pick Dunta Robinson is presently a free agent and had the most success in the slot last year of available veterans. Playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Robinson allowed 17 completions on 24 targets as a nickel corner.

Sep 152014
 
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Sep 152014
 
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Walter Thurmond and Michael Strahan, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Walter Thurmond and Michael Strahan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Things just went from bad, to worse for the 0-2 New York Giants.

Free-agent acquisition and nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III, who left Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter, suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the 25-14 defeat.

Thurmond will have surgery on Tuesday and will miss the entire 2014-215 season.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Thurmond came in in an attempt to make a play on a screen pass. As Thurmond went to “punch” the ball out, his arm hit an opponent’s shoulder pads. Thurmond said he felt a stinging pain shoot up his arm, but remained in the game. Three plays later, he removed himself after struggling in press coverage.

After the game, Thurmond said his arm was “sore” and that he’d have additional tests done on Monday. Those tests, according to Pro Football Talk, showed a tear.

Thurmond, 27, signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Giants this offseason as part of the team’s secondary overhaul. Along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Thurmond was expected to build one of the league’s best back units. Rodgers-Cromartie, and former first-round pick Prince Amukamara, manned the outside while Thurmond played nickel.

Throughout training camp, the preseason and first two games of the regular season, Thurmond displayed the physicality New York had hoped he’d bring to the defense. Not only did Thurmond walk-the-walk, but the former Seattle Seahawk enjoyed the talk just as much.

The first time Thurmond met the New York media, he boasted claims as the league’s best nickel cornerback, sparking a twitter war with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin. He was often times seen jawing with teammates in training camp and took it upon himself to bring the “swag” to New York’s secondary.

While the Giants have yet to confirm or deny the report, if Thurmond is out for the season, the door will open for Trumaine McBride. Last season, McBride enjoyed a breakout season for the Giants.

According to Pro Football Focus, McBride graded out with a positive 6.8 rating in 2013. When quarterbacks tested McBride, their rating was a 57.4. New York re-signed McBride this offseason prior to signing Thurmond.

With the new drug policy being revamped, there is also a chance former third-round pick Jayron Hosley returns early from his four-game suspension. If that is the case, Hosley can be activated to the 53-man roster and play as early as Sunday.

Sep 142014
 
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Sep 142014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants dropped to 0-2 following a 25-14 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Below you will find a few of the studs, and duds, from Sunday’s game.

Please note, these studs and duds are compiled via initial gut reaction having not reviewed the game on film. These can easily be changed upon the final film review session. These are not the final and absolute observations made.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

STUDS:

Eli Manning
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning put together the kind of performance he would have put together last week had it not been for many of the drops. It’s a crazy fact, actually, considering Manning still dealt with an abnormal amount of dropped balls.

Manning displayed that he does in fact have the ability to play in the West Coast scheme and actually have quite a bit of success. Manning looked calm, cool and collected throughout the game’s entirety. An interception on a tipped pass and an end-of-game bomb cloud an otherwise very solid performance. Manning finished 26-of-39 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rueben Randle
A lot was made over Rueben Randle’s two receptions for one yard last week and he responded in a big way Sunday afternoon. Playing against one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Randle caught four passes for 39 yards including a beautiful one-handed grab. This stud though does come with a big ‘but’ as Randle dropped a deep pass down the sideline.

Offensive Line (pass blocking)
There is a big, big difference between the Detroit Lions front four and the Arizona Cardinals, but either way Manning had tons of time to throw in the pocket Sunday afternoon. Was it perfect all the time? No, but no line ever is. Every now and then, your quarterback is going to get sacked and not everyone is going to get picked up. Looking at the complete body of work, the offensive line played very well when it came to pass blocking.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell
Maybe the biggest surprise in the early portions of this season has been the receiving aspect of Larry Donnell’s game. Manning has gone to the tight end time and time again, targeting him 17 times the last two games. Sunday, Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards and was the Giants leading receiver for the second straight game.

The Pass Rush
Wasn’t that a sight for sore eyes? The Giants front four displayed visions of 2007 and 2011, frequently making trips to Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. New York recorded four sacks, had two nullified via penalty, and had countless other pressures. Johnathan Hankins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka all got to the quarterback.

Johnathan Hankins
If the first two games are any indication, the Giants may have a budding star on their hands in Johnathan Hankins. The second-year player is not only a stud against the run, but made several visits to the quarterback, including his first career sack. He looks like a very, very good player.

DUDS:
Offensive Line (run blocking)
The final stat line says it all: New York rushed the ball 27 times and gained 81 yards. That’s an average of three yards per carry. In the first half, the Giants had 13 total rushing yards.

It wasn’t the 85 Chicago Bears lining up in front of the Giants, but the Arizona Cardinals. The same Arizona Cardinals that were playing without Darnell Docket and John Abraham. Three yards per carry is unacceptable. If the Giants want to establish anything this year, they need to improve their rushing attack. All 64 of Rashad Jennings’ yards were courtesy of him and him only. Without reviewing the game, I’m not sure he had a nice hole to run through all game.

Mark Herzlich
This is a tough one to put, because Herzlich isn’t a good defensive player. The Giants know that, the league knows that. Where Herzlich makes his plays is on special teams. Either way, when Beason went down he needed to step up and didn’t.

On Herzlich’s first series, the Cardinals gained two first downs running right at him. A few plays later, he was called for a holding. A series after that, he gave up a first-down to tight end Troy Niklas. It wasn’t a good showing.

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quintin Demps and Zack Bowman
It’s not just that Demps fumbled the ball, which was unacceptable, it’s his decisions to take the ball out of the endzone. The Giants started inside their own 20 far too many times because Demps decided to risk it, and, while looking at the replay at MetLife, it appeared he was holding the ball freely on the fumble. Victor Cruz’s drop loaded the gun, but Demps’ fumble pulled the trigger in the Giants demise Sunday.

Bowman gets a dud as well, combined with Demps. Bowman was signed by the Giants because of his solid play on special teams. He had Ted Ginn Jr. wrapped up and was bringing him to the ground before being shrugged off.

Victor Cruz
The No. 1 dud from Sunday, no questions asked. Entering the Giants match-up with the Cardinals, Victor Cruz pulled his own Keyshawn Johnson and said if the Giants offense wants success, he needs to be thrown the ball.

If you’re going to say that, fine, but you better back it up. Cruz didn’t, to say the least.

When New York needed a play, it went to Cruz who responded with three drops. Two of which would have been touchdowns.

It’s completely unacceptable to complain about the number of targets thrown your way after dropping two passes. But to then complain about the number of targets, then drop three after the complaint? That’s pathetic.

Victor Cruz is a first-year captain for the Giants, it’s time he starts playing like a leader, not complaining like a prima donna.

Sep 142014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There was a key to the New York Giants turning their offense around. In fact, according to Victor Cruz, it was a simple fix.

After being dismantled by the Detroit Lions in the season opener, New York need just throw the ball in Cruz’s direction versus the Arizona Cardinals. If they did that, everything would be OK according to the former Pro Bowler.

“There needs to be an increased number of targets in my direction,” Cruz said last week.

Versus the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, those passes were thrown, but when New York needed him most, Cruz came up short. The wideout dropped three must-catch passes Sunday afternoon as Arizona defeated New York, 25-14, dropping the Giants record to 0-2 for the second consecutive season.

“Any ball in my direction, in my opinion, I’ve got to bring in,” Cruz said. “I’ve got to be able to make the play for my team and make the play whenever (Quarterback Eli Manning) looks my way. I own up to it and those are ones I have to bring in.”

After struggling on defense in its season opener, the Giants defense again got off to a slow start versus the Cardinals. Arizona marched 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Dwyer. Following an Eli Manning interception on New York’s first series, it was a 10-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.

Trailing by 10, the Giants offense finally found life. Manning and Co. marched 90 yards in 13 plays before the quarterback found receiver Rueben Randle for a seven-yard score past Patrick Peterson. Three series later in the second half, it was another touchdown pass from Manning, this time to Daniel Fells, to give New York its first lead of the season.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“We were confident,” Cruz said. “I think the confidence level was there. We were getting ourselves open, we were making the big play.”

But the success was short lived. Arizona answered New York’s scoring drive with one of their own when Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal. Then, facing a third-and-six, the game took a turn for the worse.

With time to throw in the pocket, Manning dropped back and sent a pass deep down the left sideline. Cruz was open, but dropped the ball. The punt team came on, and Ted Ginn gave Giant fans a flashback to 2013.

Steve Weatherford boomed a high, spiraling kick to the New York 29 yard line. Zack Bowman came in to wrap up Ginn, but the former first-round pick spun out of the tackle and took off up the middle of the field.

Ginn eluded Zak DeOssie and Spencer Paysinger before sprinting past Weatherford and toward the west end zone at MetLife Stadium for a 71-yard touchdown.

“It was just that point of time where we needed a play,” Ginn said. “I just went out and I just tried to make the best play that I can, and it turned out to be a touchdown.”

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On the ensuing kickoff, Quintin Demps fumbled, setting up another Catanzaro field goal. The next offensive series, Manning went back to Cruz, giving the receiver a chance to make amends. Cruz responded with two more drops, leading to another Giants punt and three-and-out.

“We just need to keep working,” Manning said. “Those are physical mistakes, those things happen sometimes, a drop. That’s football…. We have opportunities to make plays, we just have to make them.”

With 9:11 remaining in the game, the Giants put together their best shot at a comeback, but came up short again. After driving 65 yards to the Arizona 17-yard line, Manning threw a pass in the flat to Rashad Jennings. As the running back cut to turn up the field, he slipped and fell to the turf. The ball popped out and Arizona recovered.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball in the offense’s hands one last time, but New York went four-and-out, setting up a fourth and game-sealing Catanzaro field goal.

“You know what?” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I look out there, they’re men. We’re all men. Stop feeling sorry four ourselves. We had an opportunity and we let it slip. There’s no one to blame but ourselves.

“You work as hard as you can, you run around like a crazy man. You get your coaches to apply themselves even harder. You get the players to apply themselves harder.”

In the loss, Manning completed 26-of-39 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards, Cruz five for 60 and Rueben Randle four for 39 and a touchdown. Defensively, New York recorded four sacks, highlighted by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 1.5. Johnathan Hankins had the first of his career.

New York middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and Walter Thurmond III with a pectoral injury, neither player returned.

The following players did not suit up for the Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), G Adam Snyder, T Charles Brown (shoulder), DE Kerry Wynn, T James Brewer (back), and DT Markus Kuhn (ankle).

Sep 142014
 
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Jon Beason, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

If dropping their record to 0-2 wasn’t enough, the New York Giants added injury to insult as two defensive starters exited Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals and did not return.

Linebacker Jon Beason (toe) and nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III (pectoral) each exited the game in the fourth quarter. Following the game, linebacker Jon Beason was not made available to the media, but was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot, according to NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan.

“He has to have x-rays and MRIs again,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in regards to Beason. “I have no idea. I don’t know the results.”

While Coughlin wouldn’t offer much in terms of clarity on Beason’s injury, he did state he believes it is related to the ligament tear and fracture the linebacker suffered early in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

Back in June, Beason jumped up in pass coverage during an OTA practice. Upon landing, Beason limped off to the sideline and was carted back to the locker room. Further tests revealed the fracture in his right foot and Beason sat out all of training camp and preseason.

Beason missed time in practice this week, but was a full-go for the game.

As for Thurmond, the cornerback said his injury occurred when he attempted to make a tackle in the fourth quarter. Thurmond went to punch the ball out, before feeling something in his upper right arm. He remained in the game for three additional plays and then removed himself.

Thurmond didn’t say how long he expected to be out or if he expected to practice this week.

“I’d say it’s tender right now,” Thurmond said. “I think I’ll get some imaging and stuff like that done and go from there.”

When Thurmond was injured, cornerback Trumaine McBride filled in. With Beason out, the Giants turned to fourth-year pro Mark Herzlich. The Boston College alumni struggled on defense.

During Herzlich’s first series on defense, the Cardinals twice ran at him for first downs. He was then flagged for a holding call, and one possession later gave up a first down in pass coverage.

After Beason was initially injured, the Giants had slid Jameel McClain over from strongside linebacker to middle and put rookie Devon Kennard in at SAM. The group played well in the preseason, but Kennard was inactive versus Arizona while he rehabs from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener.

“It feels better, I’m trying to get better so I can get out there as soon as possible,” Kennard said. “I’ll find out more tomorrow and Tuesday with what they plan on doing. My hamstring has to be at 100 percent. I haven’t started running and stuff like that.”

If Beason is out an extended amount of time and Kennard is unable to return, New York may look to make a move at linebacker. Presently, McClain, Jacquian Williams, Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger are the only healthy linebackers on the squad. Undrafted rookie Dan Fox is on the practice squad and could be a candidate to be called up, but he is viewed as a very raw talent with his value being primarily on special teams.